Innovation, collaboration, and creativity — these are critical 21st century skills that all students need to learn. Lower School students at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore are cultivating these skills in a whole new way, thanks to the school’s new MakerSpace.
Allowing teachers to expand the “design thinking” model already in use in Lower School classrooms, the MakerSpace is a collaborative learning environment. In the MakerSpace, students and teachers build, experiment, and discover using a variety of tools and materials.
“Students using the MakerSpace use design thinking to meet a challenge or solve a problem presented either by the teacher or fellow students connected to what the class is learning,” explained Lower School Assistant Principal Susan Yurow. “The students use their ‘free thinking’ to figure out how they are going to solve the presented challenge.”
MakerSpace projects can be used to introduce a new topic, encourage further exploration of a current unit, or as a recap to assess student learning. “We know that children learn best when they feel autonomous, when they have purpose, and when they are motivated by interest,” explains Lower School Principal Mrs. Nina Wand.
The design process includes imagining, planning, creating, improving, and communicating. In the communicating step, students ask themselves several important questions to further their learning experiences: What worked? What didn’t? Were you able to solve the challenge? What did you learn? After this reflection, the students go back and revise their projects, incorporating their own ideas and their classmates’ feedback.
Some of the challenges solved by Beth Tfiloh Lower School students include designing functional honey jars and building kosher, classroom-sized sukkot; constructing models of Buckingham Palace and other famous buildings around the world to demonstrate knowledge of those iconic buildings; and creating representations of both literal and figurative idiomatic phrases.
Although it may look like an arts and crafts room, a MakerSpace is so much more — it’s a hands-on learning lab where students use the design process to think through and solve problems using everyday items. The MakerSpace truly adds a new dimension to Beth Tfiloh Lower School’s student-centered learning environment.
By Rina Goloskov
Rina Goloskov is assistant director of communications at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School.